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Chardonnay Harvest

Bleary eyed bliss. That is exactly how I feel. Today is Saturday September 10 and since Friday September 2 the maximum night’s sleep has been 4.5 hours. On Friday September 2 we bottled our 2004 Syrahs. Bottling is the hardest part of making wine and definitely the most nerve racking. We were thrilled to see the fruits of our labor make it safely into their final resting place and after much tinkering even managed to get our quirky label on the bottle. A great big sigh of relief and about 2 hours of rest before we realized the 2005 harvest was banging on the door! On Wednesday September 7 we picked our Brosseau Vineyard Chardonnay. We were hoping Mother Nature was going to let us stretch it out until the weekend when Jared has a reprieve from his day job and the cavalry would have arrived but no such luck. I went up the Sunday before and was giddy with excitement because this year looks to be fabulous! The juice is worthy of the moniker nectar and should produce an absolutely stellar Chard. But it was nearly perfect and would certainly not wait for us to be ready so we launched plan B and tossed our original schedule out the window, made the final preparations at the winery in the wee hours of the night on Monday and Tuesday Jared and Dave headed south in our 16’ refrigerated truck to pick our first vineyard of the year (my “day job” of being a new mom kept me back in town for this pick). We were the only winery picking on Wednesday so we had the 12 person crew to ourselves and with 2.5 tons of beautiful Chardonnay, hit the road at 9:30am for the winery. Between the sunrise pick and the reefer our fruit came in at 55° F! We had filled 160 of our little yellow lug bins which take a fair amount of work to maneuver in the winery as each is individually dumped onto the sorting table and then each one has to be cleaned. But we think the resulting wine is worth it (try the 2004 and see for yourself!).

We sort out any errant leaves, twigs and any berries that are damaged from birds or bees or other little critters. From the sorting table we filled our 1/2 ton wood basket. This is the only harvest where our helpers get to pretend they are Lucy and stomp and we rarely have a shortage of clean feet ready to go. With a full basket we pressed whole cluster using our gentle hydraulic press that is completely inefficient on getting every last drop of juice out of the berries but we firmly believe it is perfect for only producing the best juice. From the press we go into a stainless steel tank where we chill the juice and settle for 48 hours before we use gravity to rack the juice from tank to older French oak barrels. Last night we racked to 7 barrels for fermentation (they are only 80% full because we leave room for the fermenting juice to expand) and expect to be in 4-5 barrels for aging it will be close this year so we may go to 4 barrels plus a stainless tank for aging). As you likely know, we only use older oak because we do not like the heavy handed flavors associated with new oak but we do value the benefits of aging in wood. We rack using gravity (no pumps) so it is slow going but again, we think it is worth it. However if you had asked me what I thought of pumps last night at 2:30am when I was sitting in a traffic jam with all of those who were leaving the big city for the burbs I just might have become a pump evangelist. At least Jared, who didn’t get home until 4:30am, missed the club crowd exiting the city. Tomorrow morning we are heading up the foothills to check on one of our new Syrah vineyards (the Fenaughty Vineyard) and Monday I am doing my Anderson Valley loop and will check in on our Grenache Gris (Rosé), old vine Syrah, Vidmar Syrah and another new Syrah – the Broken Leg vineyard.


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